March 5, 2018
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Rural broadband bill passes Senate, moving forward in House

On Saturday, the House Appropriations Committee took action on Senate Bill 5935, this year's primary bill related to rural broadband, a priority issue for AWB during this legislative session. As detailed in this AWB blog post, rural broadband was identified as a key action area during last year's two Rural Jobs Summits.

The House recently amended this bill such that it would take $75 million from the Budget Stabilization Account and move it to a Broadband Access Account. This account will also receive a transfer from the state general fund equal to the amount of business and occupation taxes paid by telecommunications service providers associated with federal funds received by them for making broadband-capable infrastructure available to unserved or underserved areas of the state.

The bill reconstitutes an Office of Broadband Access within the Consolidated Technology Services (aka: WaTech) and appropriates $500,000 to the office in the 2017-19 budget to develop a strategy for getting broadband to unserved and underserved areas. The bill passed the House Appropriations Committee Saturday morning with a vote of 19-14.

Because of the changes made in the House version in committee, if approved by the House, the measure would need to go back to the Senate for another vote to approve the changes.

Contact Mike Ennis, AWB government affairs director for rural issues and infrastructure, to learn more.

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A Lifetime of Learning

Workforce development begins young, continues over lifetime

By AWB President Kris Johnson

We all want our kids to grow up in a state with good-paying job prospects and the training to match them.

Today, there is a laser focus by our association's membership and other groups about the need to fill the workforce pipeline with skilled, job-ready workers. There simply aren't enough workers to fill the high-tech, high-wage jobs available in our state and nation.

We're working to address that problem by advocating for robust career and technical programming in our middle and high schools, training and certificate programs for high-demand jobs at our state's community and technical colleges.

We'll be talking about those very issues at the second-annual AWB Workforce Summit on March 21 in Bellevue.

Read the full column in The Wenatchee Business World
Dealing with Debt

State needs to begin paying down its bond debt

By The Everett Herald Editorial Board

Duane Davidson, now in his second year of office, hasn't been one to pursue many policy issues with lawmakers, unlike his predecessor who outlined an ambitious tax reform proposal that earned little interest. But Davidson has taken a stand to defend against raids of the "rainy day" fund and asked lawmakers to consider using some of the additional revenue to pay down the state's bond debt, add to its "rainy day" reserves or pay more toward its unfunded pension obligations. Their choice.

"I think that money would be better spent paying down any debt, pick your debt," Davidson said.

And there's significant debt to pay down.

The state's Debt Affordability Study for 2018, released by Davidson's office, reports that the state's debt portfolio has over the course of the last 20 years grown from $6.8 billion to more than $19 billion and totals $21 billion when financing contracts are included....

Read the full editorial in The Herald
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